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Lampshades can be considered with no doubt a basic element that characterizes any type of lamp. It is indeed enough to combine a lampshade with a bulb socket to a base or a cable to obtain endless lighting solutions; from pendant lamps to table lamps, from ceiling lamps to the taller and more complex floor lamps. Materials, shapes, colors and patterns can characterize the lampshade to a point that they become the fulcrum of a lamp. A central element also for its appeal within the furniture, it can stand out with its originality or be a flexible chameleonic adaptation to infinite styles ad designs.

Design or classic-style? How to choose a lampshade

Born with the practical aim of covering and surrounding the light bulb to soften its brightness, lampshades shortly became a décor element of beauty. Ever since lampshades have characterized lamps more than any other component of a lamp. Due to their twofold vocation, lampshades come in diverse shapes and materials; originally made of parchment, then of fabric, glass, metal, until the most recent in plastics and laminates. Still nowadays lampshades are an elemental lighting accessory, for its being a screen devoted to control light diffusion, dimming light more or less, delineating the irradiated area, spreading light uniformly and in a less direct way and therefore making it softer. Cylindrical or conical lampshades, with a typical tronconic shape, are undoubtedly the most common, but there are also the classical dome or scalloped shades with the so called “scallop”, the ancient “dress”, often fringed, announcing their striking aesthetic vocation at the first sight. Next to the most classical cylindrical or conical shades, in recent times it has also been possible to find square lampshades or truncated pyramid-shaped lampshades, that best adapt to specific spaces; rectangular lampshades, for instance, minimize the bulk to the point they can be easily flushed with the wall. It is possible to get more sophisticate three-dimensional shapes in pleated lampshades obtained by folding precious, more or less decorated papers.

Versatility is lampshades second name

Creativity and versatility are intrinsic in lampshades and even more in design lampshades. Even alone they can give life to countless combination of lamp typologies. As a matter of fact, by combining a shade to a free-standing lamp or a stem where a number of light bulbs are fixed, it is possible to obtain a floor lamp. Lampshades become table lamps if placed on a base, thus transforming in lamps whatever object (a bottle, a vase, a sculpture, etc.). Hung on a wire, a shade turns into a pendant lamp or a chandelier. If directly fixed to the ceiling it becomes a ceiling lamp. Lampshades are associated to abat-jour, the typical lamp with lampshades that are either fixed against the wall or put on the night bed. In addition, with a design lampshade and a pinch of imagination, it is possible to shape furniture solutions that can either fit a well precise style or be completely clashing, as when we choose an extravagant lampshade.

Planning to restyle your indoor? There is nothing easier to do with with a lampshades

Lampshades supplied with lamps and chandeliers are furnishing complements that can create a special atmosphere in any area of a house. They can be made of natural and synthetic materials; rigid and free-standing or soft and therefore mounted on hard frames; translucent or fully opaque in order to either diffuse the light or to make it sharp and accent through a defined beam of light. Without overlooking the architectural potential light can bring to any space, one could figure the aesthetics and translucence of a lampshade as elements able to forge atmospheres and styles. If in the dining room, for instance, the choice will fall on a glass or ceramic lampshade, better matching with porcelain plates and crystal glasses, in the living area, a studio or a bedroom, warm fabric lampshades or shades made of translucent paper, mounted lower, far from the ceiling will shape a snug atmosphere apt to conversations and perfect for intimate reading moments.

Lampshades and materials. Countless options to furnish any space

Nowadays for design lampshades it is possible to count on a limitless variety of materials such as fabric, glass, paper, plastic, their derived and combinations. Based on certain specific characteristics – among which their being fireproof, their handiness for cleaning and easiness of replacement – lampshades can fit specific areas, by enhancing or dimming the light source. Among the diverse material possibilities, fabric lampshades lead unbeaten together with paper lampshades, more delicate and more subjected to wearing, bleaching, piercing and damaging; at the same time paper lampshades prove to be those that most easily integrate within the surrounding décor style, allowing to obtain an excellent concept altogether with upholstery, wallpaper and lighting. Despite their further delicacy and the further attention required, it is really hard not to find oneself surrounded at home as well as in public spaces by the beauty of lampshades made of colored cotton or brilliant organza; of precious lampshades in silk or Shantung; by the sculptural beauty of innovative structures and shapes like the ones obtained by tightening a synthetic fabric on a metal frame, as in polyester and nylon lampshades; by the pureness of natural fibers such as linen, jute, hemp and other vegetable fibers; till the rougher and more opaque textures, like those of cord-made lampshades. Another evergreen are lampshades in rice paper, the material used for Chinese lanterns. Being light and foldable in two dimensions, they offer a simple furnishing solutions, within the reach of any pocket, and craft an intimate and relaxing atmosphere wherever installed, in more ethnic as well as in minimalist environments. The same infinite solutions are offered by paper lampshades in the creation of very original design lampshades even with linear shapes. Depending on the choice, they can be a peculiar element of décor in neutral spaces, or a mimetic continuum with the wall paper, curtains, carpets, diverse textile upholstery. Very much used in classic-style furnishings, next to being sought-after in the antique trade, are opal or opaline glass lampshades. The glass is made translucent or hazy by adding specific phosphates and oxides while kneading. Ideal to filter light, this glass was invented by master glass-makers in Murano in the XVI century and gained popularity in the XIV century, especially in France.
Lampshades are accessories with endless characteristics, from the softer to the more rigid textures. The market offers to date a multitude of lampshades encompassing parchment scroll, leather, faux leather; made of silicone or in various resins; light lampshades in acrylic glass, plexiglass or PVC; or even lampshades made of blown glass, Murano glass or crystal, also colored; made of threads; prism or drop-shaped. There are also lampshades in ceramic, drilled metal, wrought iron or in carbon fiber.
An example of nylon lampshade-lamp is the iconic Falkland Lamp, a suspension designed by Bruno Munari for Danesi in 1964. It is composed of an elastic tube-shaped mesh, the same as in tights, whose shape is given by some metal rings with different diameter placed inside the tube at a precise distance from one another. The effect is unique and original, even in its simplicity and the lamp has been classified among the most popular and recognizable objects of the design history and exhibited to the MoMA museum in New York.

Some tips to clean lampshades

Lampshades ought to be regularly cleaned, especially if made of porous and permeable materials like fabric, the material of which the majority of lampshades are made. This way dust and dirt do not build up and the lampshades are kept clean and like new for longer. It can be useful therefore to share some pieces of advice on how to efficiently clean them and remove stains in a short time. Exactly like with clothes, whose fabrics can feature very different characteristics from each other, lampshades also need different attentions. For instance, for lampshades made of extremely delicate fabrics like silk and Shantung, it is advisable to take them to the laundry in order to avoid wrecking or deforming them. Washable materials like cotton, linen or chiffon can be more safely cleaned at home. After removing the lampshade from the body of the lamp, or if that is not possible, after at least unplugging it, it is necessary to understand what material the lampshade is made of.
A weekly maintenance is the most indicated to avoid dust building up and, at the same time, that water stains appear on the tissue. There are several methods to remove dust. This can be done either with the classic adhesive clothes brush, or even by using the vacuum cleaner, by inserting the specific tool for tissues. The air dryer set on cold air can also serve the same scope, especially for smaller lampshades. In both cases, dust can be removed by brushing it off the most remote spots with a toothbrush or a soft brush.
In addition, not too dirty lampshades in fabric can be dry-cleaned by spraying an active foam suitable for wallpapers and curtains. The foam needs to activate for a few minutes after which it can be wiped with a soft brush or cloth. This method has the advantage of being quick and not dangerous for the fabric, since foam does not leave marks.
On the contrary, when a fabric lampshade is particularly dirty, it is more efficient to mop it with a microfiber cloth dipped in a solution of water and softener, also useful to remove the static electricity from the surface. A lampshade needs therefore to be cleaned first inside, then outside and to be let properly dry.
Stains and bad smells and especially the smell of smoke can be efficiently taken out by applying baking soda diluted with water on the interested areas and leaving it on for at least one night. If after many years the fabric has yellowed, it can be useful to dab the entire surface with a solution of water, lemon juice and salt several times and in between to let the fabric air-dry; otherwise, for tougher yellowing, apple vinegar can be used as an excellent natural whitener. It needs to be applied with a cotton ball and left on for a couple of hours, after which a cloth dampened in water only has to be eventually swabbed.

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